Use the Lexology Navigator tool to compare the answers in this article with those for 20+ other jurisdictions.

State snapshot

Key considerations
Which issues would you most highlight to someone new to your state?

Colorado is an employment-at-will state. In the absence of an explicit contract to the contrary, every employment relationship is presumed to be at will.

Colorado law includes numerous unique employment provisions, some of which go beyond the requirements of federal law. The highlights of some key state law differences include the following:

  • Colorado has legalized marijuana use by adults for both medical and recreational purposes. Case law regarding employee use of, or testing positive for, marijuana is still developing.
  • Overtime pay is required for certain non-exempt employees on a daily and weekly basis.
  • Sexual orientation, including gender identity, is a protected category under the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act.
  • With limited exceptions, employers may not discriminate based on an employee’s use of a lawful product during non-working hours.
  • Employers with more than 25 employees may not discharge or refuse to hire an individual on the basis that he or she is married to or plans to marry another employee of the same company.
  • Employers must provide domestic abuse leave of up to three working days in any 12-month period to an employee who is a victim of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault or other related crime.
  • The state minimum wage is adjusted annually. As of January 1 2016, Colorado’s minimum wage rate is $8.31 per hour.

What do you consider unique to those doing business in your state?

Colorado is known for its highly educated workforce. The natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle found in Colorado make it a very desirable place to study, work, and live.

Colorado has some unique legal provisions of which employers should be aware, including the legalization of marijuana and the protection of lawful off-duty activities.

Is there any general advice you would give in the labor/employment area?

In the absence of a contract, employment relationships in Colorado are presumed to be at will, terminable with or without cause or notice. An implied contract may be created through written or oral statements, including oral representations made by managers or statements contained in employee handbooks or other materials. Continued employment can constitute sufficient consideration for contracts, including non-compete agreements.

Colorado employment law differs from federal law and some other U.S. states’ employment laws in numerous ways, including the following:

  • Colorado has legalized marijuana use by adults for both medical and recreational purposes. Case law regarding employee use of, or testing positive for, marijuana is still developing.
  • Overtime pay is required for certain non-exempt employees on a daily and weekly basis.
  • Sexual orientation, including gender identity, is a protected category under the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act.
  • With limited exceptions, employers may not discriminate based on an employee’s use of a lawful product during non-working hours.
  • Employers with more than 25 employees may not discharge or refuse to hire an individual on the basis that he or she is married to or plans to marry another employee of the same company.
  • Employers must provide domestic abuse leave of up to three working days in any 12-month period to an employee who is a victim of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault or other related crimes.

Emerging issues
What are the emerging trends in employment law in your state, including the interplay with other areas of law, such as firearms legislation, legalization of marijuana and privacy?

An emerging area of law relates to the legalization of marijuana. Because of amendments allowing additional damages under the state Anti-discrimination Statute, employees may begin filing more employment cases in state courts alleging violations of state law rather than pursuing them under Title VII and other federal employment laws.

Proposals for reform
Are there any noteworthy proposals for reform in your state?

In its 2016 session, the Colorado legislature passed bills that:

  • require employers to make pregnancy-related reasonable accommodations;
  • provide employees the right to inspect and copy their personnel files at least once per year; and
  • repeal the state Employment Verification Law.

Employment relationship

State-specific laws
What state-specific laws govern the employment relationship?

Colorado Revised Statutes – Title 8 – Labor and Industry contains the majority of the laws governing employer-employee relationships, including wages, workers’ compensation and employment security (unemployment compensation). Title 24 – Government-State contains the state’s anti-discrimination and fair employment practices laws. 

Colorado’s Administrative Regulations (CCR) include rules governing employment-related matters. 3 CCR 708 contains rules related to Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission and enforcement of the state’s Anti-discrimination Act. 7 CCR 1101 to 1103 includes regulations concerning wages, employment security (unemployment compensation), wages, employment verification, restrictions on the use of credit report and social media and worker’s compensation.

Who do these cover, including categories of workers?

Depending on the specific provision, these laws generally cover employees. Some provisions, including the anti-discrimination laws, also apply to applicants for employment.

Misclassification
Are there state-specific rules regarding employee/contractor misclassification?

Colorado has a misclassification statute related to misclassifying independent contractor status under the Employment Security Act (unemployment compensation) (C.R.S. §8-72-114). It provides for penalties of up to $5,000 per misclassified employee for the first misclassification with willful disregard, and up to $25,000 per misclassification for subsequent willful misclassifications. The employer will also be ordered to pay appropriate premiums for unemployment insurance, including back premiums, and interest. 

Colorado has a misclassification statute related to misclassifying independent contractor status under the Employment Security Act (unemployment compensation) (C.R.S. §8-72-114). It provides for penalties of up to $5,000 per misclassified employee for the first misclassification with willful disregard, and up to $25,000 per misclassification for subsequent willful misclassifications. The employer will also be ordered to pay appropriate premiums for unemployment insurance, including back premiums, and interest.

For wage and hour purposes, an individual primarily free from control and direction in the performance of the service, both under his or her contract for the performance of service and in fact, and who is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business related to the service performed, is not an “employee” (C.R.S. §8-4-101(5)).

For workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation purposes, any individual who performs services for pay for another shall be deemed to be an employee, unless such individual is free from control and direction in the performance of the service, both by contract and in fact, and such individual is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business related to the service performed (C.R.S. §§8-40-202; 8-70-115).

To prove independence, it must be shown that the person for whom services are performed does not:

  • require the individual to work exclusively for the person for whom services are performed—except that the individual may choose to work exclusively for such person for a finite period specified in the document;
  • establish a quality standard for the individual—except that the person may provide plans and specifications regarding the work, but cannot oversee the actual work or instruct the individual as to how the work will be performed;
  • pay a salary or pay at an hourly rate instead of at a fixed or contract rate;
  • terminate the work of the service provider during the contract period, unless such service provider violates the terms of the contract or fails to produce a result that meets the specifications of the contract;
  • provide more than minimal training for the individual;
  • provide tools or benefits to the individual—except that materials and equipment may be supplied;
  • dictate the time of performance—except that a completion schedule and a range of negotiated and mutually agreeable work hours may be established;
  • pay the service provider personally instead of making checks payable to the trade or business name of such service provider; and
  • combine the business operations of the person for whom service is provided in any way with the business operations of the service provider instead of maintaining all such operations separately and distinctly.

A written contract signed by both parties may create a rebuttable presumption of an independent contractor relationship. For workers’ compensation purposes, the signatures on such document must be notarized (C.R.S. §8-40-202).

Contracts
Must an employment contract be in writing?

An express contract for employment may be made either orally or in writing (Tuttle v. ANR Freight Sys., Inc., 797 P.2d 825 (Colo. App. 1990)). An agreement may also be created by conduct, which is said to be a contract implied in fact (Id. citing Colo-Tex Leasing, Inc. v. Neitzert, 746 P.2d 972 (Colo. App. 1987)).

An implied contract can arise out of an employment manual, handbook, or other document reflecting company policy and practice (Frymire v. Ampex Corp., 61 F.3d 757 (10th Cir. 1995)).

The statute of frauds voids unwritten agreements that cannot be performed within one year, so an oral contract extending beyond one year must be in writing (see C.R.S. §38-10-112).

Are any terms implied into employment contracts?

Every contract in Colorado contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Cary v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 68 P.3d 462 (Colo. 2003)). However, in the employment context, the Colorado Court of Appeals has refused to extend the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing to at-will employment contracts (e.g., Pittman v. Larson Distrib. Co., 724 P.2d 1379 (Colo. App. 1986)). The Colorado Supreme Court has declined to recognize a tort claim for breach of an express covenant of good faith and fair dealing, concluding that a breach of an express covenant may result in damages for breach of contract only, not as a tort (Decker. v Browning-Ferris Indus. of Colo., Inc., 931 P.2d 436 (Colo. 1997)).

Are mandatory arbitration agreements enforceable?

In Colorado, arbitration is a matter of contract and ordinary principles of contract interpretation apply (Austin v. US West, Inc., 926 P.2d 181 (Colo. App. 1996)). Arbitration is a favored means of dispute resolution in Colorado courts (Id.). Without grounds based in a contract to find the arbitration agreement unenforceable, mandatory arbitration agreements may be enforced (Id.).

How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?

Colorado courts have long established that after a contract, written or unwritten, has been made, the parties may alter it orally (Arkansas Valley Bank v. Esser, 224 P.227 (Colo. 1924)). However, best practice would be to record any contractual changes in writing, signed by both parties.

Hiring

Advertising
What are the requirements relating to advertising open positions?

It is unlawful to induce, influence, persuade or engage workers to change from one place to another or to bring workers to work in this state through means of false or deceptive representations, false advertising, or false pretences concerning the kind and character of the work to be done, or the amount and character of the compensation to be paid, or the sanitary or other conditions of employment, or the existence or non-existence of a strike or lockout pending between the employer and employees (C.R.S. §8-2-104). Employers must also comply with the anti-discrimination provisions of the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

Background checks
What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries?

(a) Criminal records and arrests

Colorado employers may not inquire about sealed records (C.R.S. §24-72-702). Otherwise, Colorado law does not restrict an employer’s use of criminal history records for both arrests and convictions. However, the Colorado Civil Rights Division states in its Pre-employment Inquiries Guidelines that asking any questions about arrests may lead to a discriminatory inference and questions about convictions should be substantially related to the applicant’s ability to perform a specific job.

(b) Medical history

The Colorado Code of Regulations prohibits pre-offer medical examinations and pre-employment inquiries as to whether an applicant is an individual with a disability (3 CCR §708-1:60.3). However, employers may condition an offer of employment on the results of a medical examination conducted before the employee begins employment, as long as all entering employees are subject to such an exam regardless of disability and the exam results are used only in accordance with Colorado law (Id.).

(c) Drug screening

Colorado does not have a state law regulating drug and alcohol testing by private employers. However, employers should note that Colorado has legalized the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that terminating an employee who used medical marijuana outside the workplace after he or she tested positive during a random drug test did not violate Colorado’s lawful activities statute (Coats v. Dish Network, LLC.,2015 CO 44 (2015)).

The city of Boulder has an ordinance related to alcohol and drug testing (Boulder Rev. Code §12-3-1 to 5).

(d) Credit checks

Colorado’s Employment Opportunity Act, C.R.S. §8-2-126, restricts the use of consumer credit information by employers. Generally, employers may not require or request a credit report as a condition of employment, unless the employer is a financial institution, the report is required by law, or the report is substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job and is disclosed in writing to the employee.

“Substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job” means the information in a credit report is related because the position:

  • constitutes executive or management personnel (or their professional staff) and involves one or more of the following:
    • setting the direction or control of a business, division, unit, or agency of a business;
    • a fiduciary responsibility to the employer;
    • access to customers’, employees’, or the employer’s personal or financial information other than which is customarily provided in a retail transaction; or
    • the authority to issue payments, collect debts, or enter into contracts.
  • involves contracts with defense, intelligence, national security, or space agencies of the federal government; or
  • is a bank or financial institution.

(e) Immigration status

Colorado has its own employment verification law above and in addition to that which is required by federal law (C.R.S. §8-2-122). Effective August 10 2016, provisions of this law will no longer be in effect as the 2016 Colorado legislature repealed it. Until the effective date of the repeal, employers must complete an affirmation of legal work status form for all newly hired employees within 20 calendar days of hire. Employers must retain the completed forms for the duration of the employee’s employment.

In addition, employers must make and keep copies of the documents that employees present as their identity and authorization documents when completing the federal Form I-9. This requirement will no longer be in effect after August 10 2016. Federal law requires that such documents be examined, but does not require that copies of the documents be made and retained.

(f) Social media

Colorado employers may not suggest, request, or require that an employee or applicant disclose any user name, password, or any other information that provides access to the individual’s personal accounts or personal electronic communications devices. Employers also may not compel an employee or applicant to add anyone as a “friend” or to his or her list of contacts and may not require, request, suggest, or cause an employee or applicant to change his of her privacy settings associated with a social networking account. Finally, employers cannot discharge, discipline, or discriminate against any employee or applicant for refusing or failing to disclose such information. A few exemptions exist related to conducting workplace investigations regarding compliance with applicable laws or the unauthorized downloading of the employer’s proprietary information (C.R.S. §8-2-127).

(g) Other

Colorado law prohibits employers from terminating an employee for engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during non-working hours. There are exceptions when such a restriction relates to a bona fide occupational requirement or is necessary to avoid a conflict of interest with any responsibilities to the employer or the appearance of such a conflict of interest (C.R.S. §24-34-402.5).

Wage and hour

Pay
What are the main sources of wage and hour laws in your state?

Colorado Revised Statutes – Title 8 – Labor and Industry – Article 4 – Wages – contains the majority of the laws governing wage and hour issues. The Code of Colorado Regulations, 7 CCR 1101–1103, includes the regulations concerning wages.

What is the minimum hourly wage?

The Colorado Constitution, Article XVIII, Section 15, requires that the state minimum wage be adjusted annually for inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index used for Colorado. For 2016 the minimum wage is $8.31 per hour. The minimum wage for tipped employees is $5.21 per hour (see Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 32).

What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?

When an employee is terminated by the employer, all earned wages are due immediately, if the accounting unit is operational. If the accounting unit is not scheduled to be operational, pay is due no later than six hours after the start of the accounting unit’s next regular working day. If the accounting unit is off-site, wages are due no later than 24 hours after the start of the accounting unit’s next regular working day (C.R.S. §8-4-109).

When an employee resigns or quits his or her employment, all earned wages are due by or on the next regular working day (C.R.S. §8-4-109).

Generally, deductions from wages are permitted for the following:

  • deductions mandated by local, state, or federal law (e.g., Federal Insurance Contributions Act requirements, and garnishments);
  • for loans, advances, goods or services and equipment or property provided by an employer to the employee pursuant to a written agreement;
  • to cover the cost of theft, if a report has been properly filed with law enforcement;
  • revocable deductions authorized by the employee (e.g., for medical insurance, stock purchases, pension plans, or charities); and
  • for the amount of money or value of property that the employee failed to properly pay or return when the terminated employee was entrusted with such money or property (C.R.S. §8-4-105).

Hours and overtime
What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?

For individuals covered by the Colorado Minimum Wage Order, employers must provide an uninterrupted meal period of at least 30 minutes to employees scheduled to work a shift of five or more hours. If the nature of the job does not allow for an uninterrupted meal period, the employee must be permitted to consume an “on-duty” meal while performing duties and such period must be compensated.

Paid rest periods of 10 minutes are required for every four hours worked, or major fractions of four hours. To the extent possible, rest periods should be in the middle of each four-hour work period (Colorado Minimum Wage Order 32 (2016)).

What are the maximum hour rules?

Colorado employees engaged in work in underground mines, underground workings, and smelters may not work more than eight hours within 24 hours, except under certain conditions (C.R.S. §8-13-102).

Firemen are restricted from being on duty during any calendar month for periods which amount to more than 12 hours for each day in a month, with exceptions for emergencies (C.R.S. §8-13-107).

Minors (under 18) may not work more than 40 hours in a week or more than eight hours in any 24-hour period. Minors under 16 may not work more than six hours after school hours unless the next day is not a school day (C.R.S. §8-12-105).

For overtime purposes, Colorado requires that overtime pay be paid to non-exempt employees at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per working week, and on a daily basis for hours worked over 12 hours per day, or 12 consecutive hours without regard to the start and end time of the working day, whichever calculation results in the greater payment of wages (see Colorado Minimum Wage Order 32 (2016)).

How should overtime be calculated?

For individuals covered by the Colorado Minimum Wage Order, overtime pay must be paid to non-exempt employees at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per working week, and on a daily basis for hours worked over 12 hours per day, or 12 consecutive hours without regard to the starting and ending time of the working day, whichever calculation results in the greater payment of wages. A working day is any consecutive 24-hour period starting with the same hour each day and the same hour as the beginning of the working week. A working week is any consecutive seven-day period starting with the same calendar day and hour each week (see Colorado Minimum Wage Order 32 (2016)).

What exemptions are there from overtime?

Colorado exemptions from overtime include commission sales, the ski industry, medical transportation, salespersons, parts persons, and mechanics employed by automobile, truck, or farm implement dealers, and salespersons employed by trailer, aircraft and retail boat dealers. Other exemptions include:

  • employees in executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales capacities;
  • companions, casual babysitters, and domestic employees employed by households;
  • property managers;
  • interstate drivers, driver helpers, taxi drivers and loaders or mechanics of motor carriers;
  • bona fide volunteers; and
  • additional categories for employees in particular industries (Colorado Minimum Wage Order 32 (2016)).

Record keeping
What payroll and payment records must be maintained?

For employees covered by the Colorado Minimum Wage Order, employers must keep for at least three years a true and accurate record of the following:

  • name, address, social security number, occupation, and date of hire;
  • date of birth, if the employee is under 18;
  • daily record of all hours worked;
  • record of allowable credits and declared tips; and
  • regular rates of pay, gross wages earned, withholdings made, and net amounts paid each pay period (Colorado Minimum Wage Order 32 (2016)).

Federal payroll record-keeping requirements exist under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Discrimination, harassment and family leave

What is the state law in relation to:

Protected categories
(a) Age?

It is discriminatory employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge, promote or demote, harass during the course of employment, or discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of age (age 40 or older) (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

(b) Race?

It is discriminatory employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge, promote or demote, harass during the course of employment, or discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of race or color (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

(c) Disability?

It is discriminatory employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge, promote or demote, harass during the course of employment, or discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of disability. However, with regard to disability, it is not a discriminatory or unfair employment practice if:

  • there is no reasonable accommodation that the employer can make with regard to the disability;
  • the disability actually disqualifies the person from the job; and
  • the disability has a significant impact on the job (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

(d) Gender?

It is discriminatory employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge, promote or demote, harass during the course of employment, or discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of sex (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

(e) Sexual orientation?

It is discriminatory employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge, promote or demote, harass during the course of employment, or discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of sexual orientation, which includes gender identity (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

(f) Religion?

It is discriminatory employment practice to refuse to hire, discharge, promote or demote, harass during the course of employment, or discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of religion or creed (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

(g) Medical?

Colorado does not include medical or genetic information as a protected category under its anti-discrimination statute, except to the extent it relates to disability. 

(h) Other?

Additional protected classes under the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act are national origin and ancestry (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

Employers with 25 or more employees are prohibited from discharging an employee or refusing to hire an individual solely on the basis that he or she is married to or plans to marry another employee of the same employer (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

Employers cannot terminate an employee for engaging in any lawful activity away from or off the employer’s premises during non-working hours. There are limited exceptions to this restriction when a conflict of interest or bona fideoccupational requirement exists (C.R.S. §24-34-402.5). 

Harassment
What is the state law in relation to harassment?

Under the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act, “harass” means to create a hostile work environment based on an individual's race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, or religion. Harassment is not an illegal act unless a complaint is filed with the appropriate authority at the complainant's workplace and such authority fails to initiate a reasonable investigation of the complaint and take prompt remedial action if appropriate (C.R.S. §24-34-402).

Family and medical leave
What is the state law in relation to family and medical leave?

Colorado has no state equivalent to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, under the Family Care Act, Colorado requires those employers covered under the FMLA to provide FMLA leave benefits to eligible employees to care for their civil union and domestic partners who have a serious health condition (C.R.S. §8-13.3-203).

Privacy in the workplace

Privacy and monitoring
What are employees’ rights with regard to privacy and monitoring?

No Colorado law specifically addresses the monitoring of employees or employee communications. Employer policies should specify that employees should have no expectation of privacy in any information or items brought onto the employer’s premises or contained on or accessed through the employer’s computer systems or devices.

Colorado requires the consent of one party to a conversation before recording telephone conversations or other wire communications (C.R.S. §18-9-304).

Are there state rules protecting social media passwords in the employment context and/or on employer monitoring of employee social media accounts?

Colorado employers may not suggest, request, or require that an employee or applicant disclose any user name, password, or any other information that provides access to the individual’s personal accounts or personal electronic communications devices. Employers may not compel an employee or applicant to add anyone as a “friend” or to their list of contacts and may not require, request, suggest, or cause an employee or applicant to change their privacy settings associated with a social networking account. Finally, employers may not discharge, discipline, or discriminate against any employee or applicant for refusing or failing to disclose such information. A few exemptions exist related to conducting workplace investigations regarding compliance with applicable laws or the unauthorized downloading of the employer’s proprietary information (C.R.S. §8-2-127).

Bring your own device
What is the latest position in relation to bring your own device?

Colorado law does not address the issue of bring your own device.

Off-duty
To what extent can employers regulate off-duty conduct?

Under the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act, employers may not terminate an employee for engaging in any lawful activity away from or off the employer’s premises during non-working hours. There are limited exceptions to this restriction when a conflict of interest or bona fide occupational requirement exists (C.R.S. §24-34-402.5).

Gun rights
Are there state rules protecting gun rights in the employment context?

Colorado has no specific law addressing gun rights in the employment context.

Trade secrets and restrictive covenants

Intellectual Property
Who owns IP rights created by employees during the course of their employment?

If an employee’s job duties include inventing or solving a particular problem that requires invention, any invention created by that employee becomes the property of the employer (Scott Sys., Inc. v. Scott, 996 P.2d 775 (Colo. App. 2000)). Corporate officers may also be under a duty to assign rights to inventions to their employer (Id.). However, absent an agreement to the contrary, an employee who is not an officer or was not hired to invent generally retains ownership of all intellectual property that he or she creates (see id.; Hewett v. Samsonite Corp., 507 P.2d 1119 (Colo. App. 1973)).

Restrictive covenants
What types of restrictive covenants are recognized and enforceable?

Any non-compete covenant that restricts the right of any person to receive compensation for performance of skilled or unskilled labor is void (C.R.S. §8-2-113). The statute provides exceptions for:

  • contracts for the purchase and sale of a business or the assets of a business;
  • contracts for the protection of trade secrets;
  • contractual provisions providing for the recovery of the expense of educating and training an employee who has served an employer for less than two years; and
  • executive and management personnel, and officers and employees who constitute professional staff to executive and management personnel.

Colorado courts will not enforce a non-compete agreement if it unreasonably restricts a current or former employee's ability to earn a living. To determine whether the restrictions are reasonable, courts will look to:

  • the scope of activities sought to be limited;
  • the contract's duration or time restriction; and
  • the geographic restriction.

A court will not create reasonable limits if the contract is silent on those issues (National Graphics Co. v. Dilley, 681 P.2d 546 (Colo. App. 1984)).

Colorado has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (C.R.S. §7-74-101 et seq.).

Non-compete
Are there any special rules on non-competes for particular classes of employee?

Colorado does not permit non-competes for physicians (C.R.S. §8-2-113).

Labor relations

Right to work
Is the state a “right to work” state?

Colorado is a modified right to work state. Collective bargaining agreements may require that all employees join the union as a condition of employment, but Colorado’s Labor Peace Act provides conditions that must be met before such contract provisions be included in the agreement (C.R.S. §8-3-101 et seq.).

Unions and layoffs
Is the state (or a particular area) known to be heavily unionized?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union members account for about 8% of wage and salary workers in Colorado. Industries with union representation include mining and public employment.

What rules apply to layoffs? Are there particular rules for plant closures/mass layoffs?

Colorado has no law regarding plant closures and mass layoffs for private employers.

Discipline and termination

State procedures
Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

Colorado has no law governing private employers with regard to discipline and grievance procedures.

At-will or notice
At-will status and/or notice period?

Colorado is an at-will state, meaning that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time with or without notice or cause.

What restrictions apply to the above?

The at-will status may be modified by an express or implied contract.

An implied contract can arise out of an employment manual, handbook, or other document reflecting company policy and practice (Frymire v. Ampex Corp., 61 F.3d 757 (10th Cir. 1995)).

In addition, Colorado recognizes certain public policy exceptions to the at-will employment relationship, such as when an employee is terminated after refusing to produce misleading financial accounting information (Rocky Mountain Hosp. & Med. Serv. v. Mariani, 916 P.2d 519 (Colo. 1996)), or after expressing concerns over the employer’s conduct in defrauding the government (Kearl v. Portage Ennvtl., Inc., 205 P.3d 496 (Colo. App. 2008)).

Final paychecks
Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?

When an employee is terminated by the employer, all earned wages are due immediately, if the accounting unit is operational. If the accounting unit is not scheduled to be operational, pay is due no later than six hours after the start of the accounting unit’s next regular working day. If the accounting unit is off-site, then wages are due no later than 24 hours after the start of the accounting unit’s next regular working day (C.R.S. §8-4-109). When an employee resigns or quits his or her employment, all earned wages are due by or on the next regular working day (C.R.S. §8-4-109).